The layoff recovery plan: strategies for getting back on your feet

Feb 21, 2023

7 mins

The layoff recovery plan: strategies for getting back on your feet
Kaila Caldwell

Freelance journalist and SEO content writer

The job market abruptly experienced a sudden reversal from previous talent wars to massive, high-profile layoffs. In response to some of the highest inflation rates in decades, hitting 6.5% in December 2022, the Federal Reserve Bank continued interest rate hikes in February 2023 to another 0.25% to stifle continued inflation. However, the Fed’s interest rate manipulation affects households and businesses by delaying spending and borrowing less. This forces companies to tighten their belts through investment slowdowns, hiring freezes, and—you guessed it—layoffs.

These fears of continued inflation and a looming recession have one industry, in particular, hit harder than others: tech. Nearly 200,000 tech employees have been laid off since the start of 2022, and in 2023 alone, 352 tech companies have laid off 104,132 employees. With little predicted change, tech workers should brace for more layoffs throughout 2023. It’s not only the tech industry suffering but the media industry as well, with big names such as The Washington Post and Vox Media planning to slash jobs in 2023.

Being laid off can cause immense stress, forcing you to start your job search from scratch in the blink of an eye. Trying to figure out your next move can be overwhelming in the midst of losing your job: should you rush to get your resume out to as many jobs as possible, or are there other steps you should be taking? Everyone bounces back differently, so we spoke with Satya Chheda who has over 15 years of experience in career development and EdTech roles, and is currently leading coach development initiatives at BetterUp in NYC. Chheda is here to help sort through all your options and get you back on track after a layoff.

What to do immediately after a layoff: process your emotions

Should you jump into the job market directly or take time to reflect on your future? “This depends on your individual situation,” says Chheda. However, she mentions that everyone should probably take a moment to regroup to get a sense of how they are mentally and physically. Chheda continues, “Jumping straight in without even acknowledging what happened, how you’re feeling about it, and assessing why it happened is a bad idea. You need to take a step back and reflect on your situation.”

Omar Katbi knows this scenario all too well. Katbi, including 59 of his other co-workers, was laid off from his drone tech startup in Virginia Beach, VA, after about two months, including his two-week training course. “I was shocked by my abrupt layoff. A week before, we talked about my promotion to a Drone Engineer Trainer and how I would progress in the company.” He had seen some internal turmoil with layoffs in other satellite offices and a lack of work within his first month, but he was still stressed when his name was added to the layoff list. Katbi had just relocated from Washington, DC for this position, which caused additional stress factors. “I had to scramble to leave my new shared apartment and return to DC,” he explains.

Immediate emotions when being laid off can range from confusion and fear to humiliation, but Chheda adds that emotions can manifest into pure anger. “In a previous position, coaches told me about their experiences helping recently laid-off employees. Many expressed anger initially, and we had to help them process their emotions, sometimes with many sessions just helping them get over their anger.” And if you don’t have access to a career coach, Chheda recommends speaking to former colleagues or friends who have been in this situation to help unpack your feelings.

Was this layoff actually something good?

Through emotional processing, some people might find that their mental and physical health was in jeopardy in their previous position. “As a former therapist and someone who has been laid off, I can definitely speak to mental health,” Chheda remarks. “There were parts of my previous job that I liked, but there were a lot of unhealthy aspects as well.” She wrote down all the aspects of her previous job to help her understand her mental health—what parts of the job drained her emotionally and physically, but also what energized her. She began to realize that she was actually burning herself out. “I was working a lot, I didn’t have the work relationships that I hoped to have, I just wasn’t really happy at work. It took me a minute to figure that out, but I think just writing down the things that were good and bad can help you,” Chheda adds.

Sorting through the job’s positive and negative aspects might help you move forward and reenergize your search as you realize that your layoff might have been the push you needed to change. Katbi is in a similar situation following his layoff. He now realizes he wants to start his own drone operating business or change careers within the tech field. “I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so my first reaction was to not look for another job immediately but create my own company. I’m currently building my website and an app for drone operation. I’m doing freelance drone engineering and Uber delivery as side gigs to support myself during this transition,” Katbi explains.

For people in particularly demanding emotional or financial situations, Chheda advises them to pick up a side gig while figuring out their next steps. “Finding work at your local coffee shop or uber driving is essential for some financially, but also volunteering. Finding something that feels meaningful in this time is important,” Chheda adds. She recommends that if you do work during this in-between phase and it’s not relevant to your future career, “make two sections on your resume, one for relevant work experience, and another for your side gig work.” Chheda also stresses that jumping into a side gig after a layoff shows future employers that you’re motivated and a hard worker.

Network your way to a better future

The emotional processing time, Chheda adds, can be different for everyone. But it’s important to recognize and manage emotions such as anger or resentment before you begin networking. Chheda stresses, “It’s okay to have emotions but become aware of them, so you manage them. The worst thing to do is go into a networking meeting and talk negatively about your former employer or manager.”

Updating your resume and LinkedIn is important, but Chheda recommends you start by contacting your previous colleagues. Even if you decide to take some time off, reach out to thank them for their support throughout your tenure and use them for networking. “Your colleagues are very motivated to help you because they might feel bad, so they might be willing to open up their network and help you. Whenever you feel ready, start reaching out. If it’s not immediate, that’s okay, but stay in touch throughout your job search.” She recommends inviting them to virtual or in-person coffees to give updates on your job hunt. Chheda warns “to be cognizant that they have full-time jobs so be respectful of their time.” She also adds to be specific about the help you’re requesting; “Don’t just say that you’re looking for a job, but specify the position. It’s important to give them as much information as possible so they have the time to help you.”

Katbi is following this advice. He has processed his emotions and is now networking for clients for his new business. “I’ve made so many contacts throughout my various positions that I can start reaching out to them to see if they’re in the market to outsource their drone operations,” he says.

Upskill, reskill, and revamp your resume

After you’ve sussed out what you really want in a job, you may need to reskill or upskill. This is the case for Katbi as he ventures into a new challenge. “I will start learning more about drone programming to help with my startup business,” he says. If his business doesn’t get off the ground as quickly as he hopes, he’ll also try to change careers and learn new languages for automation and coding. Both skills will help him in the future if he decides to work for a company again.

Chheda was lucky during her personal layoff as her company offered her a learning stipend for upskilling or reskilling. Still, not all companies provide this in their severance packages. This was the case for Katbi: he didn’t receive a severance package because of his short tenure, but he also didn’t have to repay his relocation bonus. If you’re not as lucky or can’t financially swing an expensive course, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are always an option. MOOCs are available through digital learning platforms like Coursera, edX, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and many more.

In Chheda’s case, she used online learning to change domains to instructional design. “I found a course in Coursera and took it on my own time. I built a portfolio of personal projects from what I learned. I didn’t pay for the certificate they offered because employers care more about how you apply what you learned, so it’s always important to have personal, work, or volunteer projects that you can show an employer to prove that you have the skills.” She recommends people ask local businesses and non-profits if they need help with a project related to their upskilling or reskilling to gain more experience. And while this work might not be paid for now, it will help you build out your resume for future roles.

Everyone’s path is different

The steps above have no set time frame and depend on each individual job hunter. Some people might need a longer time to process their layoff, or some might not be as bothered and can jump into applying fairly quickly after receiving the news. Others might not have a financial option to take time off, so they start side gigs right away. Whatever your circumstances, it’s crucial to go into your job search with a positive perspective and no hard feelings against your previous company or manager.

And remember, if you’re a victim of recent tech layoffs, all is not lost! Tech workers are relatively advantaged in the labor market, with skills still in high demand. According to a ZipRecruiter survey conducted in late October 2022, 37% of laid-off tech workers found a new job within one month, and 79% found a new job within three months. So don’t fret, keep calm and apply on.

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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